Violence Survey Suggests Shifting Attitudes, Old Behaviors

Public acceptance of domestic violence may be decreasing, but that the change has yet to translate into a significant shift in behavior, according toa new government report.

The findings are contained in a survey released by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs on Tuesday, which followed the release of preliminary figures from the spring 2009 in Siem Reap in November.

“In all categories of violence that we asked about, the level of acceptance has fallen,” said Franziska Bohm, team leader of the promotion of women’s rights program at GTZ, a German aid agency. GTZ helped fund the surveys and provided the government with technical assistance.

In 2009, for example, 18 percent of the men and women surveyed said it was acceptable for a husband to tie up and hit his wife, compared to 40 percent in 2005.

At the same time, however, among those who witnessed domestic violence between their parents, just as many respondents reported being burned or choked by their spouse in 2009 as in 2005.

“There seems to be a shift in awareness to the positive side but the behavior change is not yet following,” said Ms Bohm.

And even attitudes, if shifting, have far to go.

In 2009, half of all respondents felt husbands were justified in abusing wives who argued, disrespected or disobeyed them, even to the point of threatening their lives.

And despite a growing belief among women that they are entitled to the same rights as men, Ms Bohm noted that the follow-up survey also made the “very concerning” find that more victims were choosing to stay quiet–81 percent in 2009 compared to 62 percent in 2005.

While the growing silence might help explain why women were reporting less abuse, she said the drop in self-reported cases could have other explanations.

Ms Bohm stressed that the survey did not delve into the reasons for the changing figures. That, she said, would take further study.

Women’s Affairs Minister Ing Kantha Phavi declined to comment yesterday.

Ket Marady, director of the ministry’s legal protection department, attributed the drop in reported cases of domestic violence to the government’s outreach efforts.


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